I wrote the following in response to: "Aafia: myth, mystery and Taliban" which was written by Mr. M. Ashfaq in Dawn Editorial on February 11th, 2010.
This letter is in response to the letter titled “Aafia: myth, mystery and Taliban” posted by Mr. Ashraf (Canada) which appeared on February 11, 2010. With the events building up since the tragic 9/11, the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the world in general is so complicated that we often find it hard to unleash ourselves from what we have been naturalized into believing and how we unknowingly misunderstand the laments around a story such as that of Dr. Aafia.
I quote the original letter:
Most Pakistanis consider her a courageous patriotic hero who has withstood years of torture in Bagram, Afghanistan and as such she is a victim of wrong persecution because little is known about her ambitions and activities after her arrival in Karachi and her confinement in prison which has not yet been proved correct.
Irrespective of the fact whether she is ‘Terror Mom’ or ‘Lady Al - Qaeda’, we have to think and decide if we want to support Taliban and Jihadi elements in our society and support irresponsible killing of innocent people.
It is undoubtedly true that during the time we are living in our sense of loyalty to humanity should be based on denying terrorism at the hands of not only the West but also factions within our society. However, what I would like to point out is that the issue around Dr. Aafia’s case is not so much about whether she was a terrorist or a Taliban or not but as to how a “terrorist” was treated and how justice was denied to a prisoner on all levels.
The letter also says:
If she was a prisoner (650), why did the FBI not charge her? And why was not she put on trial?
According to the FBI, she was arrested in July 2008 by the Afghan police outside a government compound in Ghazi with a handbag full of chemicals and information on chemical and biological weapons and some documents about potential targets in the USA. She was taken to the police station for interrogation when the alleged incident of firing on US personal happened. This also contradicts her confinement in Bagram Air Base as Prisoner 650.
If the FBI abducted her from Karachi airport and locked her up in a secret prison (Bagram Base) in Afghanistan for six years, there must be some allegations and charges against her for being involved in extremist activities and as such she should be a high - profile prisoner who could not be ignored for six years.
The letter dated Feb 11th believes that Dr. Aafia was imprisoned in 2008. However, a Newsweek article dated June 23, 2003 had already reported of her arrest. Further, the writer of the letter sounds confused when he asks why she was not charged if she was allegedly arrested in 2003 and if she was in fact arrested then, there must be good enough reason to kidnap her.
Dr. Ashraf makes a logical connection when he believes that when the FBI abducted her six years ago, there must be some allegations and charges against her. Unfortunately however, “allegations” and “charges” do not allow for a prisoner to remain in a jail for six years with the agencies involved completely denying that they ever imprisoned her at all. Furthermore, it does not allow for her children to be lost along with her or the sexual assault and psychological pressures a prisoner has to go through whether male or female.
There is a distinction between supporting the Taliban and between supporting a prisoner’s right to the Universal Human Rights declaration. In the UK yesterday a case was won in the courts whereby it was proven that the UK government and Mi5 were hiding reports of Binyam Muhammad’s torture in Guantanamo with collusion of his country’s government. If the UK can allow prisoners of war on terror a chance to speak-up albeit amongst challenges, we as Pakistanis should also be able to accept that a human needs to be treated a human irrespective of his or her status being that of a criminal or a prisoner.
I submitted the above letter in response to the original letter, in Dawn's editorial and await its submission. Let's see if it does get printed.